Social CRM

When it comes to customer relationship management (CRM), organizations are increasingly being left out of conversations happening in the social networking world because of a failure to recognize the real-time nature of social response, according to recent research by Altimeter Group LLC.


Ray Wang, partner with the enterprise strategy group with the San Mateo, Calif.-based research firm, said many organizations build CRM strategies on the premise that customer communication channels will happen by e-mail or phone. “But in the social Web, things move much more quickly,” said Wang. “One little incident could spread like rapid fire.”


Wang is the co-author of recently released research entitled Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management. The paper aims to provide organizations with guidance regarding social CRM through 18 use cases and vendors in the space.


Social CRM should tie back to an existing customer relationship strategy, not outright replace it, said Wang. Moreover, organizations must contend with the new behaviours associated with social channels – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and others – and the lack of technologies in what is still an emerging market, he said.


Organizations must also know how and with whom to engage through social channels, and how to take the conversation into private channels, said Wang. “In many cases, people are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing budgets and the customers aren’t even in these channels,” he said.


Altimeter identifies 18 use cases: social customer insight, social marketing insight, rapid social marketing response, social campaign tracking, social event management, social sales insight, rapid social sales response, proactive social lead generation, social support insight, rapid social response, p2p unpaid armies, innovation insight, crowdsourced R&D, collaboration insight, enterprise collaboration, extended collaboration, seamless customer experience, and VIP experience.

The most popular of the use cases, said Wang, are those that provide community insight like social customer intelligence and support intelligence. 

Marcel LeBrun, CEO with Fredericton, N.B.-based Radian6 Technologies Inc., a vendor of software for customer engagement in social networks, said the 18 use cases outlined by Altimeter help organizations understand that the “social Web is not a single-purpose medium.”


LeBrun explained that a common mistake among organizations is to consider social media as just another advertising channel through which to push messages, but it’s really about listening and interacting. “Brands that go to the social Web as a means of engaging with customers will succeed,” said LeBrun.


Enterprises are often driven to social CRM tools as a cost-effective means of engaging with customers in social spheres, said LeBrun. While call centre operations are linear in terms of the rigid process of customer interaction, LeBrun said the social Web is where questions and issues can be addressed quickly and in bulk.


Wang said that while the social CRM market may be an emerging one where variety of vendor offerings are limited and vendor scope is narrow, that is shortly due to change. There is already a lot of consolidation and partnerships brewing where vendors in areas like social media monitoring, business intelligence, call centre and traditional CRM are converging, said Wang.


“You’ve got all this convergence happening as everyone is trying to figure out how do we handle these social technologies,” said Wang.


Wang’s advice organizations considering social CRM: start small with a solid foundation, then prioritize and build atop that platform.


Follow Kathleen Lau: @KathleenLau

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